To take your photography to the next level and achieve perfectly exposed photos, it’s important to understand and master shutter speed and its relationship to Exposure. However, what’s even more exciting and challenging is using shutter speed as an artistic tool to achieve stunning effects.
Whether you want to master shutter speed as part of Exposure Triangle or use it artistically, the Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet makes things much easier!
Full Stop, ½ Stop, 1/3 Stop
The equation behind the relationship between Exposure and Shutter Speed is straightforward; by doubling or halving the shutter speed you are changing the exposure value by 1-stop. However, the introduction of digital cameras changed everything by no longer restricting how much we can change the shutter speed. Some cameras allow us to change the speed by half or even a third of a stop. Use the Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet to help you estimate and calculate your exposure.
Safe Shutter Speed
Using the right shutter speed is vital in photographing moving objects. Look at the Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet to see how speed directly affects image sharpness.
The Cheat Sheet illustrates how a faster shutter speed means that less light reaches the camera sensor and a longer shutter speed means that more light reaches the sensor.
Artistically Shooting with Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet
Birds in Flight 1/2000
Wildlife photographers typically use a 1/2000th of a second shutter speed to ensure birds in flight are sharp. Ultimately, you can reduce the speed to 1/400th to give the bird a sharp body and blurry wings.
Shutter speed is crucial in fast-moving sports like football and soccer where a shutter speed between 1/500th and 1/1000th freezes the action to create crisp and sharp images.
Street Photography 1/250th – 1/500th
Most streets are in constant movement with pedestrians and vehicles. That is why shutter speed is critical to produce the right exposure and to avoid soft or blurry images.
Landscapes 1/125th – ¼
Shutter speed varies across landscapes and techniques. When using a tripod, a slower shutter speed of 1/8th or ¼ of a second is acceptable. However, to avoid blurry images when shooting hand held, you need to use a faster shutter speed.
Panning Cars 1/15th – 1/60th
Panning is an artistic effect created when a slower shutter speed of 1/15th to 1/60th is used to track a moving object like a car. This causes the car to stay in focus while its surroundings are completely blurred.
Waterfalls 1/8th – 2 seconds
Capturing fast-moving water with a longer shutter speed creates a visual effect of motion blur which does not exist in reality.
Blurring Water half – 5 seconds
For slower moving water like ocean, lakes, and rivers you need to use a shutter speed slower than half a second to create dreamy landscapes and seascapes with silky, smooth water.
Fireworks 2-8 seconds
Capturing fireworks can be exceptionally difficult. A faster shutter speed yields a speck of light across a dark sky and a slower speed creates a blurry, overexposed image. Try using a 3-5 second shutter speed for optimal results.
Stars 15–25 seconds
Like fireworks, shooting the stars requires balance. A faster shutter speed produces tiny and dim stars, but a longer shutter speed (over 30 seconds) produces a trail effect. For the brightest and clearest stars, try a shutter speed between 15 and 25 seconds.
Take advantage of the earth spinning on its axis by opening the shutter speed long enough to capture the star trail. This is often done with a 15-minute (or longer) shutter speed (exposure time). However, you can create the same effect digitally by taking a series of photos (100+) with a 30 seconds exposure each. Later, blend the images together using editing software to create a gorgeous trail effect.